The misinformation about the process for getting a driving permit in North Carolina leaves many homeschoolers confused. Let’s cut through the rumors about driver’s education and give you the facts you need to help your teen get legally, and safely, behind the wheel!
On your mark…
If you have been homeschooling for a while, you may have filed that Notice of Intent, and then forgotten about your homeschool’s enrollment with the State of North Carolina. Since it is not legally required to update your student’s age (or even to add students as they reach compulsory age), many homeschoolers ignore their record on the Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE) website. However, this can become problematic when your student is ready to enroll in a driver’s education course.
First, driver’s education is offered at a reduced rate through the public school system for all students (public, private and homeschooled) in the state of North Carolina. Funds are allocated to the program based on student enrollments and this determines how many seats the program administrators allocate for those classes. When student numbers don’t match up, there can be long waiting lists.
Second, you will need to request a Driver’s Eligibility Certificate from DNPE. It can only be issued if you have a student age 14 or older in your homeschool.
To update your homeschool enrollment:
- Go here and log in to the DNPE portal.
- Click on “Update Student Enrollment.”
- Update the ages of students in your homeschool, and click “Save Changes.”
Teens between 15 and 17 years of age in NC must go through a graduated licensing process before receiving full driving privileges at the age of 18. Before beginning this process (testing for a driving permit), a student must obtain a Driver’s Education Certificate from a state-approved driving instructor, and a Driver’s Eligibility Certificate from their school administrator (in this case, you.)
You can read more about the details of graduated licensing and eligibility on the North Carolina DMV website.
Let’s get down to the details of how a student obtains that coveted driving permit! Are you ready, Mom? (I certainly wasn’t. Didn’t he just learn to ride a bicycle yesterday?!)
The Step-by-Step Guide to Driver’s Education
When your student is between the ages of 14.5 and 17, enroll in a state-approved driver’s education course.
Unfortunately, the NC DMV website says very little about how exactly one finds a “state-approved” course. To qualify, a course must have a behind-the-wheel instructional component, so no online or distance-education course is eligible. Also, though there are great defensive driving programs out there (I will link to some at the end of this article), such a course on its own does not qualify. Every public school district has at least one contracted company for driver’s education, and this is usually your best bet for getting your student enrolled and meeting the legal requirement. Classes offered through these contractors range in price from $45-$65. There are private driving schools available, but the price tag is in the neighboorhood of $500-$800. To find your local driver’s ed provider, go to your school district’s website, or give their office a call.
Obtain a Driver’s Education Certificate by successfully completing the driver’s ed course.
A driver’s education course in NC must include 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of behind the wheel of an automobile. Each course provider will have their own system of scheduling this instruction and what qualifies a student as passing. Upon successful completion, obtain the Driver’s Education Certificate from the course instructor.
Request the Driver’s Eligibility Certificate from the Division of Non-Public Education.
I recommend doing this 2 weeks before your child’s 15th birthday, or when they begin scheduling their behind-the-wheel training if they are already 15. Expect some turnaround time from DNPE especially if requesting the certificate during the busy school registration months.
To make your request, go to the DNPE website and log in to your portal. Click on “Request a Driver’s Eligibility Certificate.”
The certificate will come embossed with a seal from DNPE. You must fill in the student’s name, your homeschool name, and sign and date as the school administrator. The certificate also requires a parent’s signature and, yes, both fields need to be completed. (TIP: I’ve heard you’ll sail more easily through scrutiny at the DMV if those signatures are from different adults, if available.) The Driver’s Eligibility Certificate is only valid for 30 days from the date you sign it! So don’t sign until you’re ready to leave for the DMV for the permit test!
Take your teen to the DMV for their permit test!
The details of taking the test and what kinds of ID you’ll need will be explained during driver’s education, so I won’t get into that here. However, I will give you a heads-up that you need an official birth certificate, so start pulling those files out of the closet and hunting in case you need to order one from their state of birth.
I do hope this article helped cut through some of the bad information out there about the steps to getting your teen on the road. This part of sending our kids out into the world can be nerve-wracking enough without going in circles with government agencies! If you have questions I haven’t answered, let us know in the comments or by email!
I am providing here a list of links for Driver’s Education in Triangle area counties. In some cases, the school district specifies the process for homeschoolers. In other cases, the link here is just a starting point and you may need to do some calling or digging to get your particular information.
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